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State Representative Ross Hunter tells 48th District Democrats he’s “staying in the House”

State Representative Ross Hunter (D-48th District: Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Clyde Hill, Medina, the Points communities) announced this evening that he has decided against a bid for the state Senate in the wake of Rodney Tom’s retirement, and will instead run for reelection to the House of Representatives.

At the April monthly meeting of the 48th District Democrats, Hunter declared, “I am staying in the House.” Acknowledging the rampant speculation that began in the wake of Rodney Tom’s retirement announcement on Monday, he observed that as the chairman of the Ways & Means Committee (the chamber’s top budget writer), he is an excellent position to continue working on the issues that he cares about, including some of the structural problems our state faces.

Hunter’s seatmate, Representative Cyrus Habib, also addressed the meeting and used his time to urge support for Proposition 1, the measure to save Metro and fund badly needed road repairs. He did not bring up the Senate race during his remarks, and no one attempted to put him on the spot about it.

Joan McBride, who has been running for state Senate with the endorsements of both Representatives Hunter and Habib, told the 48th District Democrats that although she had not been expecting Rodney Tom to quit the race, she is committed to finishing the campaign for Senate that she began several months ago. (Her presentation to the organization preceded Hunter’s and Habib’s).

McBride’s supporters have been pointing out that Joan stepped up to run for Senate at a time when other potential candidates had bowed out, having decided for one reason or another not to challenge Rodney Tom. This is certainly true, but there’s no guarantee that McBride would remain the sole Democratic candidate in the race even if Habib were not to run. Tom’s retirement has created an open seat, and it’s not uncommon for open seats to bring candidates out of the woodwork.

If Habib does declare for Senate, McBride could choose to run for the House seat he would then have to vacate, as I observed on Monday.

In running for House, McBride would have a higher likelihood of joining a caucus that will be in the majority following the midterms. House Democrats currently have fifty-five seats and are expected to still have about that many seats after November 2014 has come and gone. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, need to have a net gain of two seats in November to reclaim the majority.

What is happening now in the 48th is not unusual. Retirements often set off games of musical chairs and provide plenty of grist for the rumor mill in the process.

For instance, several years ago, attorney David Frockt decided to challenge longtime Democratic Senator Ken Jacobsen in the 46th. He launched his campaign during the wintertime and began campaigning energetically for the position.

Prior to the close of filing, however, Jacobsen opted to retire, and then-State Representative Scott White swiftly declared his candidacy for Jacobsen’s seat.

Frockt then opted to run for White’s House seat rather than stay in the race for Senate and face White. They each won their respective races several months later. White moved over to the Senate, and Frockt took White’s place in the House.

Tragically, in late 2011, White died, and Frockt was appointed to succeed him in the Senate by the King County Council, acting on the advice of the 46th District Democrats and the King County Democratic Central Committee.

In a second twist, to fill the vacancy created by Frockt’s move over to the Senate, the Council chose Gerry Pollet (again on the advice of the 46th LD Democrats and KCDCC) who was Scott White’s opponent in the 2008 election for state House.

Filing week is now less than a month away, so we will soon have a clearer picture of who will be running for what, and where. One thing we know as of tonight: Ross Hunter will be running for reelection to the State House of Representatives.